If you want to find the person most responsible for the Denver Broncos reaching the Super Bowl, don’t look at Peyton Manning. Instead, look at the person who brought Manning to Denver: John Elway.
In retrospect, it seems like a no-brainer for Elway or anybody else running an NFL franchise to do everything possible to sign Manning and instantly become a Super Bowl front-runner. But, if you rewind the clock to a couple of years ago, things weren’t so simple. There was plenty of risk in Elway pursuing Manning and putting all of his eggs in one basket.
Elway could watch Manning work out as many times as he wanted to and he could speak with as many doctors as he could find, but he could never know for sure that Manning could take a hit and survive a full 16-game NFL schedule. He did not know whether the QB’s physical abilities matched his mental mastery of the game. This uncertainty made Elway’s pursuit of Manning a risky endeavor with no guarantee of working out.
But Elway understood that to achieve greatness, you have to take risks. In order for the Broncos to surpass the large collection of quality teams in the NFL and rise to the top, they would need to find a player that could take them there, even if there was a chance that move could backfire. That player was Manning, and that move has done anything but backfire for the Broncos.
Without Manning, the Broncos are nowhere near the Super Bowl — there’s no denying that. And without Elway’s boldness, Manning doesn’t land in Denver. So while Manning’s play on the field has brought Denver to the Super Bowl, the true catalyst for the Broncos getting to the big game, just as he was in their five previous trips there, is Elway.